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Protesters demand Congress back resolution to end US role in Yemen war

Demonstrators call on Congressman Gregory Meeks to back a proposal put forward by two Democrats that would end the 'unconstitutional' US role in the conflict
The Biden administration is facing renewed pressure to end US support for Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen (MEE/Dylan-Awalt Conley)
By Zainab Iqbal in New York

Dozens of protesters gathered in front of the office of the chairman of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee in New York City on Tuesday, to demand Congress introduce a War Powers Resolution that would end Washington's role in the war in Yemen.

Holding placards and chanting slogans denouncing the seven-year conflict, demonstrators urged Congressman Gregory Meeks to back a proposal put forward by two Democrats that would end the "unconstitutional US participation" in the conflict. 

Last month, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Congressman Peter DeFazio announced their intention to introduce a Yemen War Powers Resolution by 24 March - the resolution would force a vote on the Senate floor to end the US's role in the conflict.

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"We will not sit by as the Constitution is ignored and the Yemeni people suffer seven years into this unauthorized war," the lawmakers said in a statement.

"Our aim is clear: to reassert Congress's constitutional war powers authority, terminate unauthorized US involvement in this endless war, reinvigorate diplomatic efforts, and ease this devastating humanitarian disaster."

Kawthar Abdullah, an organiser at the Yemeni Alliance Committee, said the aim of Tuesday's protest, which is part of a series of demonstrations taking place across the country this week, was to pressure Meeks to back the resolution.

Yemen has endured years of chaos since Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power.

In 2015, the conflict metastasised into a regional power struggle when Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, including the United Arab Emirates, intervened to roll back the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Since then, the protracted conflict has seen an estimated 377,000 people killed, four million displaced, and a staggering 80 percent of the country forced to depend on aid for survival.

'Other legislative paths have failed'

Abdullah said Meeks had been dismissive of protesters' requests to meet and answer questions over an amendment he tabled to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in September.

According to the Intercept, Meeks' amendment contains loopholes that the White House could exploit in order to perpetuate current operations. 

Shortly after taking office last year, US President Joe Biden declared in a speech - largely met with praise from many Democrats - that he would end "American support for offensive operations in the war".

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But a year into his presidency, it remains unclear as to what ending "offensive support" entails, as the White House continues to approve weapons sales to Riyadh.

"Without US support, Saudi Arabia would not be able to conduct its daily bombings on Yemen," said Annelle Sheline, a Middle East research fellow at the Quincy Institute.

"Our weapons sales and ongoing maintenance contracts with the Saudi Air Force directly implicate Americans in the starvation and deaths of a quarter-million Yemenis. Because other legislative paths have failed, only a War Powers Resolution will end US support for this devastating war."

Last month, DeFazio, along with several other Democrats, lashed out at Biden's approach to the conflict and called on the White House to "end its involvement in this war now".

"At the start of his term, President Biden promised to end US support for so-called 'offensive' operations in this war - but he never defined what this vague declaration actually meant. A year later, the US continues to directly support this war," DeFazio told MEE.

'No end in sight'

Tuesday's protest also comes as aid agencies have expressed concern over the possible US designation of the Houthi movement as a "terrorist group", warning it could severely hamper humanitarian efforts in the country.

The US is facing growing pressure from the UAE and Israel to re-designate the Houthis as a "terrorist" organisation, but according to Foreign Policy, the White House has briefed the UN's top relief coordinator, Martin Griffiths, that it was putting any plans to do so on hold for the time being.

"We also need him to publicly oppose a Houthi FTO (foreign terrorist organisation) designation that will only exacerbate the world's worst humanitarian crisis," Abdullah told MEE. 

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"Enough is enough. The Yemeni people have suffered way too much. The world is rightly outraged at Russia's invasion of Ukraine but openly supports the invasion and aggression on Yemen by the Saudi-UAE led coalition."

According to Neda Saleh, a coordinator at Action Corps, it is necessary that lawmakers utilise all possible tools at their disposal to end the conflict before it enters its eighth year in March. 

"The Saudi-UAE aggression on Yemen that the US is supporting has been extremely effective in ruining the lives of Yemenis around the world. In one night alone, the Saudi-UAE coalition killed over 70 civilians with US weapons, blacked out the country’s internet access for four days, and damaged the homes of many innocents.

"Seven years into this air strike campaign, four million Yemenis have been forced to flee their families, homes, and communities with no end in sight."

Middle East Eye reached out to Meeks' office for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication. 

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